Why Danielle Winckworth went from a top international model at 15 to retiring at 21
When the rest of us were in braces and still figuring out what shade of foundation matches our skin, Danielle Winckworth was stalking international runways for some of the world's top designers.
At just 15 years old, she burst onto the scene, signing with Morgan The Agency in 2010 and was soon signed to Ford Models in New York, Storm in London and Oui in Paris. Within months, she landed runway appearances and campaigns girls twice her age would kill for.
Danielle, now 21, from Bray, Co Wicklow, has packed in her successful runway career (for now at least) in favour of starting her own ethical linen business with her mother Sari and sisters Rebecca and Andrea.
At a time when every Irish girl with the right look gets dubbed 'our next top model', Danielle was quietly travelling around the world and cracking the notoriously fickle high fashion industry.
Despite her success, she's as down-to-earth as it gets, admitting she would often return back to school at St Gerard's in Bray, having not told anyone she had just walked for DKNY and Rachel Zoe at New York Fashion Week.
"I started when I was 15 and it was absolutely amazing. I lived in New York, London - I did all the Fashion Weeks. It was amazing and an eye opening experience, it made me grow up at a young age. I wouldn’t take anything back," she tells Independent.ie.
"I’m a very private person, I kept my whole career very quiet and even my friends had no idea what I was doing. I’d be in New York doing Fashion Week and the next week I’m back in school.
"When they'd ask where I was, I'd say, 'I was just over in New York but I’m happy to be home'. It was just a job to me, I obviously appreciated the amazing things I got to do but it was never my lifelong ambition."
She took a break from the catwalk at the age of 18 in order to focus on studying for her Leaving Cert and she said when she finished in 2013, she began thinking about following in her mother's footsteps as an interior designer.
"At that stage, I wasn’t sure what wanted to do," she explains. "I always had a passion for design and really nice quality things, my mum is an interior designer so she ended up specialising in luxury bed linen and found it hard to find good quality sheets at an affordable price that you could trust. She spent two years researching factories, found an amazing 100% certified factory in India and I decided I wanted to be part of it."
Her sister Rebecca is a graduate of the London School of Economics with a degree in Development Studies, and said they were all educated about some of the nefarious sides of linen production.
"We discovered these hidden truths about the cotton industry and we wanted to right these wrongs. We launched White & Green in May, it's 100% organic and fair trade certified - we have gorgeous, luxurious bed lined and baby blankets and we’ve just opened a pop-up shop in Monkstown," Danielle said.
"We all get each other. Mum is the driving force behind it, we all travelled to India last January to visit the factories, we were there for a week. As a family, we all love travelling – it was an excuse to travel and while we were there, we learned that all the workers children are educated and they receive fair wages, but it’s nice to be able to travel with your family.
"We’re all in it together. That’s what our company is built on – trust as a family. We all just get each other, we have our niches, I love working with family. I used to go along with jobs with my mom at a young age."
While she's happy to hang up her heels as her family business grows, Danielle said she wouldn't rule out a return to the runway.
"I’m not going to say I'm done with modelling forever, I felt like I needed to do something else and this is where I landed. I’m so passionate and I love my day to day job. I loved the travelling side of modelling, I just felt I needed something else."
As for her favourite memory in a career filled with standout moments?
"Just being in New York [in 2012]. It was my first time to new York, I was 16 and I doing Fashion Week. I did a show for Rachel Zoe and I remember going to the casting thinking, 'she's not going to want me, this is such a huge show'. I went along, she loved me and said, 'Oh my God I need you'.
"There were a ton of famous people there. I loved the excitement of Fashion Week and running to castings – my mum always mapped out our routes.
"She never let me go anywhere alone. There was no Google Maps then and I had 30 castings a day, so my mum was up until 10 at night mapping out the route from one casting to the next. I don’t know what I would have done without her."
For more, see whiteandgreen.ie